Connect with us

Tactical Analysis

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Netherlands 2-1 Mexico: Oranje win battle of individuals

Coming into the tournament, this was a clash that a lot of people didn’t expect to see. Netherlands weren’t really looked at as favourites in the way they are now, with many people doubting their ability to get out of the group. The same doubts were cast over Mexico, with people looking at Croatia as a team that could cause an upset or two. However, both these teams really overwhelmed all expectations in the group phase. Mexico earned a creditable draw against Brazil, while easing past their equals, Croatia. Netherlands stunned the world with their win over Spain and won all their group games to set up this clash.

Formation & Line-Ups

Netherlands (3-5-2): Cillessen; De Vrij; Vlaar; Blind; Verhaegh (Depay 56′); Wijnaldum; De Jong (Martins Indi 9′); Kuyt; Sneijder; Robben; van Persie (Huntelaar 76′).

Mexico (5-3-2): Ochoa; Aguilar; Rodriguez; Marquez; Moreno (Reyes 45′); Layun; Herrera; Salcido; Guardado; Peralta (Hernandez 75′); Santos (Aquino 61′).

Goals: Dos Santos 48′, Sneijder 88′, Huntelaar 90+’

Made using Tactical Pad

Made using Tactical Pad


Sneijder dropping deep to create play

Coming into this World Cup, Netherlands, and their traditions dictated that the Oranje play quick, technical, possession based, attacking football. But after an injury to Strootman made it very difficult for Louis van Gaal to ply his preferred 4-3-3 system, the coach opted to change his approach, and in conjunction with some of the senior players, led a shift to a 5-3-2 formation. The Netherlands we saw in the group stages was one that got the goals and were great fun, yes, but their methods were completely different. At the end of the group stages, Netherlands were the team that had committed the  most number of fouls, and had played a lot of long balls as well. This approach was magical, and yielded some great results, so many expected them to carry on in the same vein.


However, things were different against Mexico. Teams like Spain were willing to take the ball and attack the Dutch, but the Mexicans were happy to let Netherlands have the initiative. This meant that the Dutch had to do something different in order to create scoring chances as the Mexicans were quite happy to sit back. This is why the one player who was capable of serving the team as a playmaker was employed in just such a capacity. Wesley Sneijder, who generally plays just off the front two, was the player who was dropping deep in order to collect the ball, and set up play. This was important as Netherlands needed to break down the opposition which was very careful about not leaving any space behind it for the counter to be effective.

Sneijder's received passes. via

Sneijder’s received passes | 

As you can see from the image above, Sneijder wasn’t sticking to his nominal position behind the 2 forwards. He kept drifting wide, especially to the left where he picked up a lot of passes and tried to dictate the play. He tried to find the runners from deeper positions with his passes, and played a few good ones with Dirk Kuyt in particular. Rather than having the man on the ball play the long ball, there was a conscious effort to find Sneijder, and have him play an accurate and incisive pass. The Galatasaray man played 7 long passes, and all found their targets.

Defenders playing out from the back

Both Mexico and Netherlands play with 3-5-2 formation, in the sense that the basic formation that both teams employ tends toward a 3-5-2. In this particular knock out round match, both teams had very similar formations, and therefore cancelled each other out a bit. The midfield battle was a tough one, with no one side able to create a man advantage or really dominate. Netherlands had the possession, but it was mostly the sterile variety, with Mexico creating what little running there was.

In such a situation, the spare man for both sides was at the back. For each team, the back saw 3 defenders against 2, and on many occasions, 1 striker. This meant that the onus was on one of the back 3 to break out from the line with the ball, and try to create the advantage in midfield. We saw Rafa Marquez, and later Reyes trying this for Mexico, whereas it was mostly Bruno Martins Indi for the Dutch. The ploy might have worked, but neither of the two were really effective enough to severely affect the opposition’s defence. Both moved forward and carried the ball with them, but neither could really play in team mates in dangerous areas, or really cause danger.

Bruno Martins Indi pushing forward as the ball player to make a difference. via

Bruno Martins Indi pushing forward as the ball player to make a difference | 

Reliance on individual skill

Another outcome of the fact that both the systems were so evenly matched was that the game essentially descended into a series of individual battles. Generally, when 2 teams are employing different systems, there are parts of the pitch that can be exploited, but this wasn’t on show during this intense battle. Add to the fact that the Dutch were also favouring a man to man system of defending, we got to see a match that was decided by the brilliance of individuals.

Herrera for example, gave Verhaegh a very hard time on the Mexican left wing. He completed 4 dribbles, and was generally a good outlet for the Mexicans. Verhaegh, who was preferred due to his abilities on the ball, couldn’t really cope with Herrera.

Netherlands too, enjoyed some dominance in such situations. One of the players of the tournament so far, Arjen Robben, was running riot for them, and got more and more active as the game wore on. In the end, it was another mazy run from the Dutchman that won them the crucial penalty kick.

The game was essentially all about the individual brilliance of players. The Mexican goal came from a terrific strike, and so did Sneijder’s goal. Everytime Mexico threatened, it came after a a few good individual moments from one of their players. The game was eventually settled after a fine individual run from Robben won a penalty.

Key Player of the Match

The most important player in this match would have to be Arjen Robben. The Dutchman didn’t score or assist, but was by far the best player on show. His pace, power, and dribbling were at the highest level, and he kept the opposition defence on its toes throughout the game. In the end, he won the penalty, and settled scores in favour of the Dutch.

Where does this leave them?

Netherlands managed to scrape through after a remarkable turnaround, but their performances will need to be a little more convincing if they are to beat Costa Rica, and possibly Brazil or Colombia after. Despite the performance though, they have the result, and that will please them more than anything. They have made it to this stage by surpassing many expectations, and now will be hoping for another final appearance.

Mexico tried hard, but this seems to be their level at the international stage. One might call the Robben penalty a dive and consider them unlucky, but it’s hard to see Mexico ahead of this Netherlands side, and their performances. Despite that, it was a very good showing from the Mexicans at this World Cup, and their fans have every right to be pleased with them.

Vishal Patel

Vishal Patel

Massive Chelsea supporter. Follow Mourinho and love Ronaldinho. Enjoy discussing tactics anytime, anywhere. Enjoy watching the Italian National team as well.
Vishal Patel

100 to Watch


Specials1 hour ago

“If you win, we will kill you”: The Tragic Story of the Death Match

Oliver McManus has a look at the incredible story of the Death Match where 11 brave men stood up to...

Tactical Analysis2 hours ago

Tactical Analysis: Napoli 0-0 Inter Milan | Sarri’s Strong Attack And Counter-Press Against Spaletti’s Deep Block

Ryan Tank provides a tactical analysis about the Serie A match that ended Napoli 0-0 Inter Milan Inter Milan held...

Talent Radar7 hours ago

U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #8: Goncalo Guedes and Kai Havertz feature

Sami Faizullah compiles this week's Young Players Team of the Week from across Europe's top seven leagues.

Talent Radar1 day ago

K-League U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Season 2017: Talent Radar

As the end of the season beckons across Asia, it is time for us at Outside of the Boot to...

Tactical Analysis1 day ago

Tactical Analysis: Benfica 0-1 Manchester United | Goalkeeping Mistake Decides Close Encounter

Hiko Seijuro provides a tactical analysis about the Champions League match that ended Benfica 0-1 Manchester United SL Benfica hosted...

Talent Radar1 day ago

U17 World Cup 2017 Tactical Player Report: USA 1-4 England

Josh Sippie has a look at the players that stood out during the U17 World Cup quarterfinal that finished USA...

Talent Radar1 day ago

U17 World Cup 2017 Tactical Player Report: Mali 2-1 Ghana

Dan Davis takes a look at the standout players in the U-17 World Cup quarter final between Mali and Ghana....

Scout Report2 days ago

Scout Report: Ezri Konsa | Charlton’s Rising Star

Stefan Vasilev provides a detailed scout report on Charlton’s highly rated defender, Ezri Konsa Charlton Athletic are usually left out...

Tactical Analysis3 days ago

Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 2-1 Napoli | Solid Possession and Press

Ryan Tank writes a comprehensive tactical analysis about the Champions League match that ended Manchester City 2-1 Napoli Manchester City:...

Talent Radar4 days ago

2017-18 Performance Rankings: Top 10 Young Midfielders – Edition 1

Our Talent Radar Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe, with...

Specials5 days ago

A Growing Gap: Analysing the Championship’s new financial realities

Richard Pike looks at the finances of the English Football League, specifically the Championship’s new financial realities. As we approach...

Scout Report6 days ago

Scout Report: Vinícius Junior | The most expensive player born this century

Anderson Moura lays down the rule on the world’s most expensive player of the 21st century thus fair, Vinícius Junior....

Talent Radar1 week ago

2017-18 Young Players’ Team of the Week #7: Manchester City’s trio lead the way

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Young Players Team of the Week with the best young...

Tactical Analysis1 week ago

Tactical Analysis: Borussia Dortmund 2-3 RB Leipzig | Press beats Possession

Ryan Tank writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Bundesliga match that ended Borussia Dortmund 2-3 RB Leipzig Line Ups...

Series1 week ago

Tactical Philosophy: Paul Clement

While this website has made its name focusing on the lesser known youth of this beautiful sport, and combined it...

Interviews1 week ago

Interview: Ex-Premier League players on the Problem with Young Footballers

Outside of the Boot had the opportunity to speak with ex-Premier League players – Manchester City’s Paul Dickov, Leicester City’s...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Nicolo Barella | Cagliari’s Complete Midfielder

Kaustubh Pandey provides a detailed scout report on Cagliari’s promising Italian midfielder, Nicolo Barella In a country that is as passionate...

Opinions1 week ago

Statiscal Analysis: Which team has the worst injury record in La Liga?

Luke Glassford provides us with a statiscal look at the injuries suffered by various La Liga teams over the past...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Chris Willock | Benfica’s ex-Arsenal youth product

Hrishi Anand takes a look at youngster Chris Willock, whose move away from the Premier League could help blaze a...

Scout Report1 week ago

Scout Report: Marlos Moreno | Manchester City’s Colombian flash

Josh Sippie takes a look at Colombian international Marlos Moreno, whose Spanish education will make or break his chances at...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Young Player Rankings 17-18

More on Outside of the Boot